By Patty Wilber
Last weekend the New Mexico Appaloosa Club put on a Ranch Trail Clinic at the Stanley Cyclone Arena in Stanley, NM. This clinic is the brain child of Kathryn Erikson and is the second one we have done. Kathryn is a carded ApHC judge, the president of the NMApHC, and president of the national Appaloosa Ranch Horse organization. She is also a bang up ranch trail designer and has a trailer full of trail obstacles. So, basically, she is our Ace in the Hole for a Ranch Trail Clinic.
Kathryn put together a ranch trail pattern and she and her husband, Ryan, set it up.
For the purposes of the clinic, we divided up the pattern and each coached parts. I had obstacles 1-3, Kathryn had 4-7, and Ryan had 8 and 9. Each session lasted an hour and a half and had a maximum of five riders. For the first hour, riders worked at will on the obstacles and we coached them. Then, the riders worked the whole course while being videoed, Kathryn scored the run as a judge, and I recorded comments on a sheet of paper. Each participant will get the video, scoresheet and comments for all riders in their session (all gave permission to share). So, not only did they get personal coaching and scores, but additional runs to study!
It is a fun format in which to coach and it was instructive for me to see issues common among multiple horses. We were also able to tailor our coaching to the level of each horse, so for green horses, we offered ideas to help them build. For advanced horses, we could give refinement tips.
Here are some tips for obstacle 1. Walk with purpose to the log. Try to stop in excellent position to begin the side pass. If the horse is able, stop in position and immediately begin the side pass. If a horse is greener, stop, take a breath and make sure the horse is ready and then side pass. If a horse has no idea how to side pass a log, try first against a fence, then try in front of the log, the try stepping over the log instead of having to side pass onto the log.
Keep the horse straight while side passing, but don’t practice it 100 times in a row. Try a few and go do something else. At the completion of the side pass, well, do make sure the horse has fully completed, and for the advanced horse, inhale and walk right off toward the bridge. For a greener horse, make sure the horse is settled and ready, then walk to the bridge.
Obstacle 2. Horses should cross the bridge with purpose and should not creep over it. They should not rush over it, either. It is fine if they drop their heads to look, but that is not required. They should not be looking all over and fall off the bridge, of course! The rider should have a quiet hand and the horse should not have to be slowed down with the reins. Sit deep and exhale to help a speedy horse.
For green horses, having them follow a person or another horse can help them gain confidence crossing, and sometimes starting the short way can help. Horses can also be asked to stop on the bridge, back off, keep front feet only on and move their hind ends around the end, put hind feet only on and move front feet around the end. This allows a rider to work on body control and also keeps a horse from thinking, “bridge. i am going over it, and no one can tell me otherwise!”
Obstacle 3. This obstacle looks best if the horse keeps a nice forward (but not rushing) pace, remains equidistant from the markers as he turns, stays supple in his neck and body, and steers without leaning. It turns out that bush #3 was the hardest and a good number of horses wanted to push their shoulder out and over bend a bit as they rounded #3 and headed for #4. Some things that helped correct that while riding the pattern were to stay about 5 or 6 feet away from the third bush so the turn was not so tight, and really look at the 4th bush. Ride with your eyes.
To prepare for a serpentine, one exercise is to circle the first bush at a walk by having the horse look at the bush and push the hip away. Same thing for the next bush but go the opposite direction. Do all the bushes and also come back. Off the pattern, six meter trot circles with the nose in and hip out, six meter trot circle counter arcing, and sideways drifting by trotting a six meter circle but drifting the horse out to make a wider circle without changing the shape of the horse’s body. All these develop body control and suppleness. They also allow the rider to help the horse slinky through the serpentine without leaning on the reins or bulging a shoulder.
Here are some of our participants!
Heidi and Lucy came, too, and did I get a photo of them? Nope.
In other self aggrandizing news, Gette is just getting started and boy am I impressed with her. I have not kept track of how many rides I have put on her, but maybe 10? This is at Heidi’s, after I had worked in the round pen. This was Gette’s first ride with any purpose outside of a round pen.
A few days later I was able to trail ride her, alone, on a pretty tricky trail. She nailed it.
And we got new back cinch buckles from my NM Paint Horse club 2022 winnings. They match a bridle I had! Ryan (Ox Bar Custom) made the back cinch buckles. I am so fancy, now! That’s my brand, not that I have branded anything lately, but hey.
Cancer treatment update.
I feel great. I am well recovered from the surgery and happy to be off chemo for now. I start up again April 27th, I think, but apparently the oncologist did not actually schedule that, so I will be following up to find out the scoop.
Next week I will be in Hawaii with the not yet born grandbaby (as of this writing, Thursday night), so you can look forward to grand daughter photos. I timed my trip just wrong, horse-wise, because the weekend after we leave, there is a Super Horse show near where my daughter lives, with cow horse events. Next year maybe I will plan to go to see that! I think last year we came the week after that show.